Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Leap Day Launch for LEAP UK

Today United Patients Alliance were asked to speak at the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) UK Launch in the houses of Parliament.
Clark French, Founder and MS Patient, and Faye, Rheumatoid Arthritis Patient, spoke amongst Senior Police officers, experts in drug policy reform, Doctors, MP's, authors, former soldiers and medical cannabis patients from across the globe. We stood together to call for the war on people who consume drugs to end.

It was both an honour and a privilege, huge thanks and respect to Jason Reed and the Leap UK leadership for arranging this event together and for such a fantastic launch. Inspiring.

Neil Franklin US Exec Director of LEAP opened the proceedings talking about how the so called "War on Drugs" had been the most destructive policy since slavery with US prison population rising from 500k to 2.3m with 80% of drug crime inmates being black.

Anna Machon who used to work for MI5 added that during the financial collapse of 2008 without illicit drug money giving them liquidity many more banks would have collapsed illustrating how the Criminal market for drugs now amounts to around $435Bn annually.

Norman Lamb MP spoke up emotionally in support of drug law reform. Coming from a background in Mental Health and as Health Minister for the Liberal Democrats he has seen first hand the damage that the current system of prohibition does to patients already suffering from illnesses and those unlucky few who become addicted and get a criminal record instead of the help and support that they need. He highlighted his parties commitment to the full regulation of cannabis in the UK.

Then we we were taken on a journey from the Poppy Fields of Afghanistan right through to the devastation of lives and families at the other end;

Patrick Hennessey, an ex-officer in the Grenadier Guards fighting in Afghanistan explained how some of the worst fighting took place in Helmand province, where the US army destroyed Opium farms which is the only major industry and economy. The locals and farmers had no choice but to fight back to protect their lives and livelihoods making the war significantly worse.

Johann Hari, author of "Chasing The Scream" then pointed out that there are now 10000 drug related murders in us every year, whereas, Switzerland, who legalised heroin for all addicts has seen ZERO deaths and violence since then and 70% of the public are in full support of this policy. In Portugal where all drugs were decriminalised in 2001 have seen drug harms reduce by around 50% and even those in opposition at the time now support this policy as they have seen how everything the prohibitionists feared have NOT materialised and everything the reformers predicted has been absolutely true. "Legalisation restores order, to the existing anarchy of prohibition"

Hubert Wimber from LEAP in Germany talked about their experience of opening safe consumption rooms for IV drug users, since which they have seen Zero deaths, 100k needles off the street and no public disorder issues - Highly successful harm reduction

Jim Duffy and ex-police officer from Strathclyde noted that drugs have got effectively MUCH cheaper, purer and available since the drug war started in 1974.

"In 1974 we always talked about a £10 deal, which given inflation should now be £147. It's not. We still talk about a £10 deal"

He added that back then Scotland had a finite number (a few hundred) of Heroin addicts all being adequately managed through prescription, but overnight they were all criminalised and had their support taken away. Scotland now has 55k addicts with deaths every day.  

Ex-Officer and now Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham, Ron Hogg, spoke about how the our problem with Alcohol costs the UK around £11Bn a year and whilst echoing support for the principal of decriminalising personal possession through the new Psychoactive Substances Act, highlighted how this is going to make an already impossible task for the police even more difficult. He then went on to explain his "Checkpoint" initiative where consumers are directed to support services rather than through the criminal justice system they are seeing only a 2% re-offending level, which against a national average of 39% represents an incredible result.

Dr Michael Shiner from Stopwatch explained how rather than helping, "Stop and Search" was a significant source of harm having a disproportionate impact on minority communities and leading to increased risk and violence. Ge also added that in his opinion the path to full drug law reform would have to be achieved through "piecemeal" steps in the UK.

Finally we heard a deeply emotional talk from Rose Humphry's from "Anyone's Child" describing how a fear of criminalisation delayed her first child from calling 999 whilst overdosing and how her second son had also overdosed thanks to not knowing the purity due to criminal supply.

A fantastic day in Parliament with intelligence, pragmatism, realism and a great deal of emotion discussing Drug Law Reform has given us all a great deal of hope that times are finally changing and we can look forward to a new world of Evidence Based Policy and a great deal less harm.

Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance
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